The Merchant of Venice play is set mainly in Venice in Italy. To the Elizabethan mind, Italy was a place of power, wealth and luxury, with finely dressed, cultured men and women, art, beauty, and history. Venice was a world of commerce, business and international trade where vast fortunes could be made and even more easily lost with the sinking of a ship in a treacherous sea. It was a city where moneylenders abound, themselves making fortunes out of the misery of failed merchants, presenting an underworld of predatory business endeavours. The play is partly set in Belmont, a dream location, full of love and romance music and leisure, in contrast to the cruel world of finance and business that characterises Venice. See a map of The Merchant Of Venice settings

Date written: 1596-1598

Read Shakespeare’s original text of The Merchant of Venice

Read The Merchant of Venice in simple, modern English

Genre classificationThe Merchant of Venice is regarded as a tragic comedy.

The Merchant of Venice Characters: The main character is the merchant, Antonio who fails and becomes indebted to the merciless moneylender, Shylock. Antonio’s friend Bassanio has borrowed money from Antonio in order to woo Portia, the beautiful resident of Belmont and it’s the reason why Antonio has fallen prey to Shylock. The other main characters are Jessica, the daughter of Shylock, and Lorenzo and Gratiano, associates and friends of Bassanio. See a full list of characters in The Merchant of Venice.

The Merchant of Venice Themes: The main themes are justice, mercy and revenge. Other themes are love, friendship.

al pacino dressed in flowing red robe with black headband, playing Shylock in The Merchant of Venice

Shylock in Shakespeare’s comedy The Merchant of Venice

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